Have you ever had a friend play a bad song, only for them to plead, ‘Wait, we’re getting to the good bit!’ Have you slogged through a boring novel or film because you were promised excitement? Yeah, don’t write your CV like that. Recruiters want to be ‘hooked’ by your application from the start. You need to make sure ‘the good bit’ is the whole thing!
One of the most common pitfalls we see in CV appointments is a lack of specificity. Employers may sift through hundreds of applications and spend, on average, just seven seconds looking at a CV. They’re likely to have seen far too many personal profiles that include the words ‘hardworking’. It’s not enough to simply state these things. Writers are encouraged to ‘show, don’t tell’ – and you should too! What have you done to prove you are hardworking? What was the outcome? Most importantly, how is this relevant to the role you have applied for?
If your application isn’t tailored to the role, or if it is weighed down by unnecessary or irrelevant details, you are selling yourself short. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to illustrate your achievements. Alternatively, the ‘What? So what? And what?’ method covers similar bases. The recruiter wants you to prove you’re suitable for the role, so be sure to read the job description or person specification and build your answers around these criteria. You can’t rely on an employer knowing what you mean if you are vague. Every sentence needs to fit the bill.
Many jobs are degree neutral, meaning employers don’t mind what you studied if you have good results and a well-rounded skillset. But make no mistake – you still need to be specific! A consultancy role might, for example, welcome applications from all degree disciplines. You still need to say how your maths/biology/robotics degree makes you a good fit. You may have to think outside the box with this, because your degree doesn’t speak for itself. Consider booking an appointment with us if you are unsure how to present your skills.
Finally, don’t forget to apply this to your interviews, too! You may be asked similar questions to ascertain your strengths, and the same need for specificity will apply. It’s okay to ask to hear the question again, or request a moment to gather your thoughts. By contrast, you should have plenty of time when writing an application to compose and refine your answers. These answers can make or break your chances of securing an interview at all. Make sure to use a spellchecker and consider printing and reading your application out loud. Is it professional? Is it relevant? Every word counts, so be sure to hook your target audience – that is, the recruiter – from the very beginning.